The last time gamers were able to get their hands on a Star Fox game was in 2002 when Rare released an adventure game set in the Star Fox universe. While it was enough for some to quench their Star Fox thirst, for others it just wasn’t enough. For most, what they really liked about the games were the flying missions. In fact, I don’t think anyone can argue with that. Star Fox Adventures, unfortunately, didn’t feature that much of those and because of that, fans have been asking for a true sequel to Star Fox 64 since then.
A few months after SFA’s release, Nintendo revealed a new Star Fox game called Star Fox Armada and it was to feature tons of flying missions. The fact that it was being developed by Namco’s Ace Combat team suggested that it could be the best Star Fox yet as the Ace Combat games have been highly acclaimed by the gaming press since it first started on the Playstation console.
Time passed and little details were revealed about the game. When it was shown for the first time though many were let down when they learned it was to be mostly a multiplayer based game. What’s worst was that it didn’t look too good either, that the controls were extremely bad and that it wasn’t too fun to play.
A year later at E3 2004, Nintendo showed a new version and all hope that was lost of the game being good came back. Fans all over the world were excited as they were going to finally be able to get their hands on the Star Fox sequel they deserved. I was one of those fans and since I still played Star Fox 64 until last year you can imagine how much I was excited on being able to get my hands on Star Fox Assault which was now the new name for the game.
The game was released last February and I quickly got it. Being the hardcore gamer that I am I played with it like a maniac and finished it in only a few hours on the day I had bought it. Some of you might think I was disappointed as I had paid $50 to play a game that lasted only something like 4 hours, but that’s not the way I see it. I might have paid $50, but I was able to experience one of the best GameCube game to date, and a worthy sequel to Star Fox 64.
The game starts with an opening video much like past Star Fox games. The Lylat system is being attacked by Andross’ fleet and the Star Fox team comes to save the day. It’s kind of like every other Nintendo franchise as it always starts the same way, always ends the same way too, but it’s what between that mostly interests us.
This game offers new play modes that weren’t available before. While there is still the story mode, there is also the possibility to play any of the completed 10 missions in any order you want, and also a survival mode where you have to complete the whole game in one sitting without getting game over. In the normal story mode you can restart any time you want, but in survival mode you’ll have to restart from the start if you die. There are also 3 different difficulty levels for the expert Star Foxers out there who want more. The bronze difficulty level is quite easy, but when you start playing silver and gold you’ll see that only the skilled players will be able to play through those as they offer more challenge than I have ever seen in a Star Fox game before.
The game offers a total of 10 stages but, unlike Star Fox 64, you can’t choose the path you want to take to get to the final boss. If some of you do remember, in SF64 you could perform certain tasks and that gave you the choice of choosing a different route and that gave the game a lot of replayability. That is now gone from Star Fox Assault and I think it’s a bad thing as, like I said, it gave us a reason to play through the game many times just to see what the best route was to get the most points as possible and also to find out all of the little secrets in each stage.
The story of the game is quite simple and it is all told via briefings between the missions in conversations between the characters as well as in cutscenes at the beginning and ending of each stage. Should I mention that all of the characters have voice-overs too? It’s cheesy but it is fun nonetheless. Anyway, the game starts with Andross’ son trying to take over the system but then, a race of aliens that hasn’t been seen for years in the Lylat systems comes back and tries to kill all and it is your mission to stop them. You’ll meet old enemies along the way as well as new ones and also get advice from new partners.
As for the missions themselves, some might be disappointed. There are more on foot missions than flying missions. It probably has to do with the fact that the game was to be more of a multiplayer game at first as most missions seem to be big multiplayer arenas in which you have to perform certain tasks, and sometimes those tasks need to be performed within a certain time limit.
The on foot missions don’t offer too much variety. You basically shoot at everything that moves and that’s about it. You can destroy the enemies using the land master and sometimes the arwing and you can switch vehicle at any time you want. There are also a few instances where you are on the wing of one of your wingmen and blast at everything that is in your way. And like before there are also boss battles at the end of the stages. Most of them are easy and some of the bosses looked a lot like those in Star Fox 64. You can also choose from many different weapons along the way including machine guns, rocket launchers and snipers.
In SF64 you had to destroy a certain number of enemies and also make sure all of your wingmen were alive in order to get medals. This is back in Star Fox Assault but there is also something else you need to perform in each stage if you really want to complete everything in the game. You have different numbers of hits needed on each of the difficulty levels and of course the higher the difficulty level the more hits are needed. There are also 5 flags hidden in each stage. Those can be found on enemies or hidden in some places and if you can find them all you unlock new weapons in VS mode.
In VS mode you do mostly what you did in SF64, and that means blast your friends as much as you can. There are a lot of different maps though as you can unlock all of the stages from the game as well as play in arenas designed specifically for VS mode. There are a lot of characters to choose from and each of them have different abilities. For example, a character like Falco will be faster than Slippy. Couple that with the fact that you can change vehicle at any time and you’ve got a great multiplayer mode with lots of possibilities. Expect long nights with your friends playing this game!
This game has been in development for a long time but it doesn’t really look like it. The framerate is a steady 60 frames per second and never slows down, but the graphics aren’t on par with the latest batch of games. The characters look ok, but the enemies and environments all look blocky and the textures are ok I guess, but we all know that the GameCube is capable of more than that. I did like what I saw though in some of the stages as I like the Star Fox universe and the way it looks as it has its own style, but if Namco can develop better looking PS2 games then I’m sure they could have done something spectacular on GameCube.
As for the sound, prepare to be amazed. The sound effects are very repetitive and the guns don’t make as much noise as I would like, and the game doesn’t even support Dolby Pro Logic II, but all of this is forgiven because of the amazing, wonderful, spectacular soundtrack. Really, I don’t think there are enough good words to describe the orchestrated score of the game. There is new music and also remixes of older songs from Star Fox 64 and it has all been performed by a Tokyo orchestra. I really hope Nintendo releases a soundtrack for the game and also decides to give the same treatment to their future releases as I think orchestrated music sounds incredibly good and gives this game an epic feel to it, and it sounds a lot more professional.
So even though I think this game could have been a lot better it is still a great release and I really think that everyone should give it a try. The characters are really fun and the story can be interesting at times. The game does offer some challenge for everyone and the multiplayer is a blast. There are a few unlockables to keep you interested a little longer and give the game some replayability. And as I said, the music is just perfect. I sometimes even put the game in my GC and play a few stages just to hear it! I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a Star Fox fix.